Welcome to The Other Five Count, a non-wrestling version of Ben Morse’s monthly masterpiece. Each month, the staff will come together to count down their favorite movie, TV, music and sports topics, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
March is here and despite the chill in the air across most of the country, it is finally time for spring. And that means… Spring Break road trips. So, with that in mind, our staff is here to share their must have songs and artists when they build their road trip playlist. Enjoy!
And right off the bat, I am bucking the official question listed above and going with the top five artists you need on your road trip playlist. So without further adieu…
Honorable Mentions: Billy Joel (Piano Man FTW), Beastie Boys (Hey Ladies is a fantastic driving song), Kid Rock (Screw you, Devil Without a Cause is a great windows down, flying down the highway tune), De La Soul/Color Me Badd (New Jack Swing, you can never go wrong), Eminem, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg (Package deal, they collaborate so much and all of their hits make them very close to my top six)
5) Big Punisher
Who doesn’t love Big Pun? His run on top was short-lived but he churned out a hell of a classic catalog before he passed away much too young. Who hasn’t tried to match his epic super fast rap style at one time or another? Add in beats that make your car shake and an infectious upbeat style, Big Pun will keep you smiling the whole time you are trekking down 95 South. Must Have: Still Not a Player, You Came Up
4) Hall & Oates
Need a break from the rap? Let’s head back to the 80s for some Daryl & Johnny Boy. Any time I flip through Sirius and hit the 80s on 8 and Hall & Oates are rocking out, my finger is off the dial. I want my 80s music to be upbeat and poppy with a mix of old school blended in and the good Sirs Hall and Oates meet that criteria. A must that they are included. Must Have: Kiss On My List, You Make My Dreams
Volume, volume, volume. And that applies to both audio levels and the depth of the artist’s catalog. Jay-Z has created so many fantastic songs that my playlist is stuffed full of Hova and I still don’t have nearly everything he pumped out. Whether it is his harder, grittier, angrier older stuff or his peppier, “I am King of the World” new stuff, Jay provides hours of long drive entertainment. Plus, you have to speed down the highway rocking 99 Problems while feeling like a badass at least once in your life. Must Have: Empire State of Mind, I Just Wanna Love You, 99 Problems
2) Hootie & The Blowfish
Nobody croons like my man Darius. NOBODY! His quality hits and listenable music runs a lot deeper than you may remember. Sure, you know the big hit thanks to Dan Marino and the Dolphins, but don’t forget about Time, Hold My Hand, Let Her Cry and I Go Blind! All fantastic, all Hootie-rific and all tons of fun to rock out to with the sunroof open and the sun shining bright. Must Have: Hold My Hand, Time
1) Notorious B.I.G.
Well, if you didn’t know Biggie was going to top my list, then you don’t know me at all. The GOAT when it comes to rap and hip hop, his run was way too short but what he produced was the stuff of legend. His albums are must have and his songs are all very singalongable (great word). If you sit here and tell me you haven’t rapped along to Juicy or Big Poppa while you were driving down a stretch of road at least once in your lifetime, I say you are a big old liar. UHHH! Must Have: Juicy, Big Poppa, Notorious, Warning
When I think of good road trip songs, I like to think of songs about traveling or heading towards a destination. In a way I am on the same journey as the singer, even if the destinations aren’t the same. So for my list I just picked five of my favorite traveling songs:
5) Everywhere – Tim McGraw (1997)
Seems that country music is great for songs about traveling, or travelogue songs, hell a classic 1960s country hit called “I’ve Been Everywhere” lists a whole darn slew of cities (interestingly enough that song started out its life in Australia, and the American version is one of three well-known international covers, along with New Zealand and United Kingdom versions). This late 1990s Tim McGraw tune does a nice and sad spin on the idea. Guy spends all his life traveling and looking for work in different places, but can’t keep the girl he left behind in his old small town out of his head, and the idea that she wanted a life that was more settled, stable and with a family. Oddly enough the same year would see McGraw sing “Just to See You Smile” which was about a couple that tended to uproot themselves every so often, though it doesn’t quite make my cut in terms of a traveling song, maybe more of a “this could be a bad relationship” type of song.
4) Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers (1973)
The first time I heard this Allman Brothers classic was watching the movie When Harry Met Sally, and it is playing in the background of an early scene with the two titular characters in a roadside restaurant on their way to New York City. And from then on I’ve always associated this song with roadside honkytonks and dive bars across the country especially those that have a Southern flavor to them. It is a great song with ties back to a classic singer of songs of lonesome drifters, Hank Williams.
3) The Fugitive – Merle Haggard (1966)
If you could encapsulate the idea of what is commonly referred to as the “Sad Hulk Music”, otherwise known as “Lonely Man”, the song played over the end credits of the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show, and put lyrics to it, it would be this Merle Haggard classic. “Down every road there’s always one more city, I’m on the run, the highway is my home…” While not as peppy as some of my other choices, this is a great song to listen to as you pass exit sign after exit sign on highways and roll through busy strips and Any Town, U.S.A. Main Streets. Probably a good honorable mention in this kind of lonely life of someone on the run song is Johnny Cash’s “Wanted Man”, co-written with Bob Dylan, that rattles off various towns and cities the singer has hit while on the lam.
2) Homeward Bound – Simon & Garfunkel (1966)
An anthem for those waiting patiently at any sort of waiting area of a terminal, either be it a train like the singer, an airport, or a bus. That lonesome and longing to just be moving again, and specifically where your final destination is. While written by different artists (and about different modes of transportation entirely), you can kind of connect this and “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” with the idea that it is the singer from “Jet Plane” on his way back home. Interpretations involving icons of the 1960s folk revival (“Jet Plane’s” most famous version was by Peter, Paul & Mary) aside, this is still a classic traveling song that does a great job summing up the weary traveler that can’t wait to return to normal surroundings.
1) City of New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie (1972)/Willie Nelson (1984)
This song is perpetually in my head while on a long train ride. Well, that and Johnny Cash’s “Ride This Train.” About a nearly 20 hour real train route that has been run by Amtrak since 1971 (the song mentions its former runner, the Illinois Central Railroad) detailing the long, and at times lonely, ride from Chicago, IL to New Orleans, LA.
If I had to pick, it would probably be Nelson’s more country and Americana sounding version, but Guthrie’s original is a classic as well, and the story behind its pitch, with the writer Steve Goodman performing it while Guthrie drank a beer, is probably the greatest example of an elevator pitch I can think of!
Spring comes and an old guy masquerading as a young man’s fancy turns to the open road. I have always loved driving a long distance to some nice sunny place, preferably by a body of water.
The key to making those trips is the musical framework I build around it: something that gets and keeps my attention while making those miles groove as they pass. Here’s a five-spot from my Urban Assault Vehicle (a 2004 Chevy Venture). In no particular order:
5) Rattlesnake – St. Vincent (2014)
A twisted electronica groove (with a nod to Talking Heads) drives this tale of naked girl meets, well, a rattlesnake. It’s fun and makes for good seat dance candy.
4) RC Cola and a Moon Pie (45 mix) – NRBQ (1986)
The ‘Q are the greatest band nobody ever quite got, and while keyboardist Terry Adams still fronts a version of the group this one is from their classic 70s line up. A loping swinging groove with a killer piano intro leads into a finest kind road boogie extolling the virtues of a vegetarian diet ruined by Southern cola drinks and marshmallow pastries. This one makes me wish I had my grandfather’s old ’62 Oldsmobile that ruled the Arizona highways back in the day.
3) 24 Hours – Sky Ferreira (2013)
Proper road driving requires a percentage of simply great and trashy pop songs. This one has a chorus that sticks in your head like the cotton candy that your rat kid brother stuck in your hair at the State Fair. 80s electronics meets the Shangra La’s; you’ll hit repeat for miles.
2) Kitty’s Back – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Live in Perth, Australia) (2014)
Just before the Boss hit the road to South Africa at the beginning of the year, his team announced that they would be selling mp3 downloads of the shows there and in the future from the Springsteen website. Anybody that has experienced Bruce live more than once knows each show is a one of kind, and this venerable track from his early years gets the dee-luxe treatment from the horn fronted juggernaut that is the E Streeters today. This one is worth it for the keyboard boys cutting loose for a change with Garry W. Tallent’s bass dancing around the groove underneath. You should make it from Lodi to downtown Stockton on this one alone.
1) Money – The Beatles (1963)
Anything by the Fabs makes great road music, but this burner will definitely put your license in jeopardy for two and half minutes. Lennon turns in one of his most manic rock vocal performances making sure you know he’s gonna take your gas money and your girl.
Got it? Let’s hit that highway…
I often joke that my iPod is like my right arm and I feel lost if it’s not with me when I’m in my car. Music in my car is very important to me and you won’t hear a radio station playing in it very often. I think the music sets the mood for the drive, and I often create a few playlists that I could play depending on my mood and where I am. The songs and albums I listed below are some of my favorites:
5. Britney Spears Greatest Hits
What better album to get a road trip started? This album contains all of the best songs from early on in Britney’s career, which are all of her best ones! I listed the entire album, rather than just one or two songs because they are all so good. “Toxic”, “…Baby One More Time”, “Oops, I did it Again”, “Stronger” and even a pretty good cover of “My Prerogative” are just some of the songs on this album that make for great road trip tunes.
No road trip would be complete without a plethora of great pop music, so I have a couple of honorable mentions:
N’Sync’s Greatest Hits: Britney Spears and N’Sync go together on a road trip like peanut butter and jelly. Obviously, you can’t have a road trip without boy bands! The album has all of their top hits, including their best: “Girlfriend” featuring Nelly, “Bye Bye Bye” and “Tearin’ Up My Heart”.
Backstreet Boys Greatest Hits: “Backstreet’s back, alright!! Another fantastic boy band greatest hits album. From “Everybody” to “Quit Playing Games with my Heart” to “Larger than Life” there are so many great songs to sing along to on this album.
Tip: Listen to both Backstreet Boys and N’Sync greatest hits albums and debate with your friends whether Backstreet Boys or N’Sync is the best boy band (and which of your friends you might want to leave at the next rest stop based on their decision).
4. Benny and the Jets – Elton John (1974)
It doesn’t matter where this song is playing, you know that when you hear it, you have to sing along. The odds are that you and whomever you are with will belt the lyrics out incorrectly but you’ll have a great time doing so. It’s a good song to play to wake everyone in the car up during a long driving stretch.
3. Tiny Dancer – Elton John (1972)
Maybe it’s because Almost Famous is one of my favorite movies, but I can’t picture a road trip without listening to this song at least once. I always picture all Stillwater, William and the “Band-Aids” on the bus singing when I hear this song. It’s a great point during the film, where their singing this song together is a sign that everything is going to be alright.
2. Everlong – Foo Fighters (1997)
A road trip playlist isn’t complete with my all-time favorite song, Everlong. I love the original version, but there is something about acoustic version of this song that make it even better. Dave Grohl wrote it when he going through a divorce with his first wife and the Foo Fighters were not doing as well as he had hoped. He wrote the song in 45 minutes, and it was 45 minutes that helped launch the Foos into the band that they are today.
No road trip for me would be complete without the Foo Fighters. As much as I love late 90s/early 00s pop, I can’t listen to it for an entire road trip. The Colour and the Shape and Wasting Light are two excellent albums to listen to on a long drive.
1. Danza Kaduro – Don Omar (2010)
I’ll be honest, I listen to this song on the way to work at least once a week. I first heard it while in Punta Cana. Even though this song is in Spanish, and I had no clue what it meant, I loved it immediately. The beat, Don Omar’s voice, I really can’t pin what it is about this song that makes me love it so much, but I do. If I was about to start a road trip, this would probably be the first song that I play to kick it off. The lyrics of the song itself state that you won’t have the power to resist the beat of the song: “Who’s going to control the power of this wicked feeling that now gets through your veins and the heat like the sun that can’t let you be still at the beat, babe.” If you don’t believe me, just listen to it for yourself:
Supernaut – Black Sabbath (1972)
Part of what makes a song road trip worthy is its ability to get you pumped for the adventure you are embarking on. What better song to do that than one about climbing mountains on the moon and crossing oceans to touch skys…all without flying of course, which means you are probably on roads at some point. Written by four men raging on cocaine, it both revs you up with an amazing opening riff and then lulls you into the pull of the groove. Like Hunter S. Thompson popping black beauties and then huffing ether, highway travel is always about that balance between laying back cruising, or being ready to punch your foot to the floor when you need to pass those in a slower groove. Ozzy’s voice sounds like it might touch the sky if your windows are down, which they should be as well. There should also be someone with their foot out the window, the car equivalent of sitting in a chair backwards (conventions be damned). This is for that part of the road trip.
Alternate Winter Answer: Snowblind
This song is also off of Volume 4 but instead of being about actual snow, it is about cocaine. Super cryptic stuff. Apparently that causes icicles on your brain, but is still sort of sounding like hypothermia. Either way it is in the same vein as the Supernaut and perfect for winter trips.
Life is A Highway – Tom Cochrane (1991)
It was in Cars! The Movie. That’s like the ultimate road trip movie because it is from the perspectives of the cars who we take granted on our tours o’er hill and valley. I mean, did you even make an attempt to set the cruise control? It’s not just for you ya know! To be clear, the version I’m referring to is the Tom Cochrane version and not the Rascal Flatts one, but either will work in a pinch. It talks about highways and encourages singing along at the top of your lungs. That’s why it beats out “Highway Star” or “Highway To Hell” for the “Mentions Travel Related Content or Metaphors” spot on my list. Those songs are good to great sometimes (other times any AC/DC can be redundant), but they are ones that rely on a certain timbre quality of the vocals and are somewhat “untouchable”. Amateurs singing like Bon Scott could easily become screaming, but Tom Cochrane is just average enough that a carload of people has the potential of sounding better than him even based on the sheer emotion of the shared experience which is usually filled with anticipation with events yet to happen.
Plus, on a personal note, it is a song I remember hearing the day I ran away from my alcoholic mother which also happened to be the day that my father finally got custody of my sister and I. Which is like, a totally different kind of road trip.
Oops. Did I just ruin the list?
Dopesmoker – Sleep (2003)
At some point you need to chew up whole chunks of time and highway and something to zone out to really helps out that cause. Given a choice, I would prefer the entire Deloused in the Comatorium album by The Mars Volta with its epic space jams, but this list is about songs and not albums – and that one is best consumed whole and not in increments.
Going in the opposite direction musically, one finds a song as long as an album and equally immersive as Deloused, though in a distinctly different way. Dopesmoker by Matt Pike’s legendary sludge outfit, Sleep, trudges along in no real hurry to get anywhere as if they know they will get to where they are going eventually and regardless. Perfect for that state of travel limbo one finds their self in when they have gone too far to turn back, but have quite a ways to go before reaching their destination, this is the soundtrack for that point during the trip when everyone wants to be alone which is physically impossible.
Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses (1988)
For the purposes of this list, let’s assume that this theoretical road trip is of a positive nature and not heading down to Uncle Jim’s funeral (unless you hate Uncle Jim, which in that case I would have to say “Fuck That Guy!) or anything else equally depressing. Assuming that, the “place” you are going is held in your mind like some sort of shining light on a hill. Like a paradise? You see what I’m getting at here. It is also a fun one to sing, even if it is slightly blasphemous to sing over W. Axl Rose. To be completely open and honest, every song on Appetite for Destruction would be on my road trip playlist because it is one of my favorite albums and kicks so much ass, but if I have to choose one, “Paradise City” seems like the logical choice.
(If you are trying to keep tabs on the logic, “Paradise by The Dashboard Light” would not qualify despite it being a sing along favorite that talks about both cars and paradise. Sex while driving is too dangerous for road trips.)
Shoulder To the Wheel OR Third Engine OR The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands through the Ocean) – Saves The Day
You could listen to this album twice before “Dopesmoker” was done smashing your face in which means that these songs are fairly short and frankly, I can’t choose between these three off of their seminal 1999 sophomore release, Through Being Cool. Each song is about a different kind of travel, but traveling nonetheless. Shoulder To the Wheel is ambiguous about why, but it deals with the act of driving itself and rocking out with your friends, as well as the cathartic feeling that can stem from it. The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands through the Ocean) is a perfect expression of the “touring is awesome” mentality that a bunch of kids in their late teens or early twenties would undoubtedly feel, tempered with the feeling of missing home and your love. Third Engine technically takes place on a train, but it is about the anticipation that builds when traveling to see a girl that you are separated from. It was actually a song that I listened to on a bus to meet a giri had met online in the early 2000s, who turned out a really fat chick who had catfished me back before that was a thing. Still, the song has maintained its positive connotation and the three together are so rocking that they would keep anyone’s spirits up and put into perspective the whole experience of getting in the car and blazing a trail across the country no matter what your reason for doing so may be.
5) It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll) – AC/DC (1975)
I am not the world’s biggest fan of the current incarnation of Australia’s favorite rockers, but I start EVERY single road trip (which is most often the annual family pilgrimage to Disneyland) with this song. The crunch of the opening chords, the groove, the sing-along power of the chorus and yes, the random bagpipe solo in the middle combine to create one of my favorite tunes. I also think about School of Rock every time I hear this song, and that movie is quite close to my heart (like Jack Black’s character in the film, I’m a music teacher/band coach).
4) The Rain Song – Led Zeppelin (1973)
This is an epic that doesn’t get the radio love of the mighty Zep’s big hits, but it always transports me to my early band days. My terrible, terrible first band took many a trip to San Francisco in one of our Volkswagen bugs, and this long selection from “Led Zeppelin V” was always on the mixtape. This song builds and releases and makes you feel like you’re the emperor of the universe…and then quietly comes down into a nice little acoustic coda.
3) Breathe Me – Sia (2004)
This is a song that is impossible for me to disassociate from its iconic inclusion during the series finale of Six Feet Under. This is a gorgeous piano-soaked song that gets bigger and bigger and makes me want to just…drive…somewhere. Yes, it’s very influenced by Tori Amos (which means it’s really influenced by Kate Bush), but this is still a magnificent piece of music. I just wish it was longer than the four minutes that the “official” version runs. When I listen to this song, I think of Claire Fisher driving off into the sunset and I think about dying, and I think about how life is just a wonderful, wonderful gift.
2) Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen (1988)
I’m not as cool as the narrator of this song, but I wish that I were. The thumping beat, the witty lyrics and the monotone delivery all make this just…cool. I sometimes prefer the more contemporary Concrete Blonde cover, but you just can’t go wrong with this. When I drive to a gig (I’m in a few bands that you’ve never heard of) I like to have this playing to get me into the right mindset.
1) Riviera Paradise – Stevie Ray Vaughan (1989)
This is a long instrumental that takes me back to my 17-year old days of wanting to be the best blues guitarist in town. I listen to this and miss Stevie so much. The mood this song evokes is one of peace, relaxation and satisfaction. I’ve often listened to this song (and the super, super rare live version) while driving through the Northern California foothills. I am reminded of how much I have yet to learn as a musician.
Every section of the mixtape would be broken down into pods, four or five songs with an interlude before that all had a theme. It could be all one style of music or one general theme. For example, there would be a fire block – which would start with Lloyd Banks’ On Fire, a little Prodigy Firestarter, some Social Distortion Burning Ring of Fire and finish it off with some Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
All the songs are centrally themed and then follow it up with another movie/Simpsons/Family Guy quote and on to the next block of four songs. There would be a good hour of drug songs all interlaced with quotes from the Dewey Cox movie. I believe the quotes were pot, cocaine, and pills. The centerpiece of this block would be N.E.R.D’s “Everyone Nose” which would be prominently placed in the cocaine block right after Buckcherry’s Lit Up. Another non-interesting fact about this song: Every time we would go to the bar and rack up $100 in bar tabs, we would all go “100 bill, achoo achoo.” I figured I would share that.
Since I would be traveling across international borders, these four songs were must haves:
Going into Canada
1) Canadian Idiot – “Weird” Al Yankovic: For obvious reasons.
2) Chillin – Wale ft. Lady Gaga: This actually transcended the road trips, because every time either me or one of my friends would travel overseas, we would have to play this song, because we’re international whoa-oa.
Coming back into America
1) Team America “Fuck Yeah”
2) Bad Religion’s “American Jesus”
Must Have Rock/Miscellaneous Songs
1) Party Hard – Andrew WK
Early in the trip, within the first hour, this song has to be broken out to get ya going.
2) Scotty Doesn’t Know – Lustra
From the Eurotrip soundtrack, usually interlaced with a couple of quotes from the movie. That was a such a quality film that never got its proper due. Oh well.
3) Six Underground – Sneaker Pimps
About halfway thorough, when you’re driving through absolute nothing for hours, next exit 20 miles, is a good time to place a nice slow down chill block, which would always be highlighted by Sneaker Pimps.
Also on the nonsensical area would be Norwegian punk rockers Turbonegro with their song All My Friends are Dead and of course there is a small joy in rolling down your windows whilst driving the speed limit (of course…) just screaming out Undead.
And there is System of a Down, Night Ranger, Gogol Bordello, lots of Bad Religion and H.I.M. that are must haves…and I could go on, but I think I have used my allotted time, so thanks for reading my list of songs that I have to put on my playlists. Cheers.
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